Stressed out women at higher risk of heart disease

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Past research has indicated that mental stress affects heart health and now a team of researchers at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, NC have found mental stress on the heart may vary significantly depending on sex.

The study, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, took 310 participants – 56 women and 254 men – who were being treated for heart disease in three stages and tested them in three stages: a mental arithmetic test, a mirror tracing test and an anger recall test. The subjects then took part in an exercise experiment which required them to run on a treadmill.

Blood pressure, heart rate and blood samples were all taken and heart changes were monitored through an echocardiogram during testing and the results indicated women exposed to mental stress were more likely than men to experience myocardial ischemia – which can damage the heart muscle and reduce its ability to pump blood efficiently.

Women experiencing mental stress were also more likely to have more negative emotions and record higher incidence of platelet aggregation – the early formation of blood clots.

“The relationship between mental stress and cardiovascular disease is well known. This study revealed that mental stress affects the cardiovascular health of men and women differently,” said the study’s co-author, Dr. Zainab Samad.

“We need to recognize this difference when evaluating and treating patients for cardiovascular disease.”

Recent research published in the European Heart Journal indicated that there is a significantly increased risk of heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular events in the 2 hours following an anger outburst.

Heart disease is the number one killer of Australian women – killing roughly 9,139 women each year or 25 women each day.

The Heart Foundation warns that women need to get savvy because it is not just an illness that middle-aged men need to worry about.

“The heart disease risk factors include being overweight, being physically inactive, smoking and having a family history of heart disease,” the Foundation warns on its website.

“The only way to know your true risk is to have a heart health check with your GP.”

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